Becky Schaff, Dunwoody Woman’s Club president

 

In Dunwoody, chances are you’ve probably visited a place or program that got its start at the Dunwoody Woman’s Club.

Major institutions such as the Dunwoody Nature Center and the Spruill Arts Center and events such as the city’s Fourth of July Parade were created or developed by members of the women’s club.

The influential service club has been working in the Dunwoody community since 1971. The ladies in the club are proud of their link to Dunwoody’s history. And they know their stuff, too.

Sharon Doyle, the club’s spokeswoman, pointed out the four-page section on the club in a dog-eared copy of “The Story of Dunwoody.” It clearly had been flipped through many times before. “I can’t give you mine, it’s my bible,” Doyle joked.

The woman’s club meets once a month. Its 135 members represent all kinds of women from the community, Doyle said.

“We have young career women, young mothers, mid-career women, homemakers and retirees. We welcome them all,” Doyle said.

The club is a non-profit group affiliated with a national federation of woman’s clubs.

Within the club are six “programs” or committees that focus on different areas of service: arts, education, conservation, home life, international programs and public issues.

“When a member joins, we ask her to specify which program she would be most interested in,” said the club’s president, Becky Schaff. “But it doesn’t mean you don’t get involved in others.”

Each member is required to give 24 hours of service each year. “Most members accidentally work many more hours than that without even noticing,” Doyle said. “You can be involved as little or as much as you want.”

The club has a speaker come to each of its monthly meetings. Last month, the speaker talked to the group about the prevalence of sex trafficking in Atlanta. Now, the group is collecting donations and planning a volunteer visit to a shelter for victims of childhood prostitution.

The women are proud that their club tackles issues in the community.

“We’re not the organization you call when you need cookies,” Schaff joked.

“We’re identifying these needs and filling them,” Doyle said.

Ann Kimble, who is in charge of membership for the club, said she believes the organization’s visibility in Dunwoody keeps interest in the Dunwoody Woman’s Club strong after all these years.

“Lots of people see we’re busy and we’re happy,” Kimble said. “I think it’s an attraction.”

Though they have accomplished a lot in the past, the club is still working to improve things in Dunwoody. Every two years, the club members vote to tackle a major new community improvement project.

In recent years, the club has collaborated with groups such as master gardeners to create and upgrade gardens at the Donaldson-Chestnut Farm and the Dunwoody Nature Center.

When Doyle moved to Dunwoody from Florida in 2005, she was struck by the warm hometown feel at the annual Fourth of July celebration.

“Here, virtually in the shadow of skyscrapers, we had this hometown Fourth of July,” she said. “It’s a really wonderful anachronism and certainly worth preserving.”

Kimble said the club offers strong social support in Dunwoody as well by doing things like cooking dinner for families who have lost a loved one.

“When people pass away, we’re all there. We’re there to support their families,” Kimble said.

Schaff said it’s people like the ladies of the Dunwoody Woman’s Club and other community organizations who care about Dunwoody that make it such a great place to live.

“If we didn’t do that,” Schaff said, “Dunwoody would be just another geographical area.”